Directions to the Court

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pendleton-town-court-0159-09-09-29-1227-wm(29 Sep 2009, cont.)

When I first saw a sign indicating the “Town Court” down the road, I wondered if it was a municipal version of a food court. I was starting to think about lunch. But no, when I got there I found it’s a place for legal proceedings rather than hot sandwiches.

And it’s in a convenient location for legal business, too. It’s not downtown, but on the north side of the creek. Only 500 feet away, on the same side of the creek, is a place where criminals were hung. The close proximity might give one the idea that Pendleton is a place that takes its traffic laws seriously.

The place of execution is of course where the Fall Creek murderers were hung in 1825. I was curious about where the trials were held. Could it have been at this very place, I wondered? Has court been held at this location for nearly 200 years now? The main part of town is on the south side of the creek, but one of the early references indicated that the double log cabin where the trials were held was in the north part of town. This was north, all right.

oliverhsmith

An account given in Oliver H. Smith’s reminiscences about Early Trials in Indiana at first encouraged me in this mistaken idea. Smith (portrait above) was the state prosecuting attorney for three of the four trials. (Well, maybe it was three of the five trials if you count a possible instance of double jeopardy. More on that another time.)

In telling about his ride (by horse, not bicycle) from his home near Connersburg to Indianapolis and then to Pendleton, he explained how he tried going up the east side of Fall Creek, but ran into impassably wet conditions. So he crossed to the west side, which would also be the north side when you get to Pendleton, i.e. the side where the Town Court is now located. His horse took him across the somewhat flooded creek with no problem untill the end, when the girth of his saddle broke. You can read about it here, on page 176 of his book.

He was a mess after that crossing, but then says:

All matters were soon adjusted. Fox [the horse] bounded on as light as a reindeer and before dark I was in lively conversation with the other lawyers before the large log fire at the hotel of Mr. Long.

That must mean he had crossed back to the south side, because elsewhere it is strongly implied that the only hotel in Pendleton was on the south side, at a place near where the railroad bridge later crossed. This, I presume, was the bridge for the now-defunct railroad I had crossed in Falls Park a short time earlier.

In my googling last night I finally came across more definite information about where the log cabin courthouse had been located. It was not on the north side of the creek. Instead, it was very near the place where I got lunch soon after leaving the Town Court. Unfortunately, the place where I got lunch was not called a food court.

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